Governor Laura Kelly sent a request Monday to President Donald Trump asking for a major presidential declaration for public assistance program for 63 counties in Kansas as a result of widespread, record rainfall and severe weather causing flooding, flash flooding and tornadoes beginning April 28.
There have been multiple disaster declarations as a result of widespread flooding in May that included much of Butler County.
“We had an initial meeting with the state back on May 22, looking at our public damages,” said Keri Korthals, director of Butler County Emergency Managment. “Things like roads, culverts, bridges, parks and public buildings — anything that is government owned. Just looking at that … were sitting at about $2 million (in damages)
Korthals said that figure looked mostly at the flooding from May 7 and 8 — and much of what was damaged was flooded again later that month.
The county threshold to be included in disaster declarations is about $249,000.
“We easily met our threshold,” Korthals said.
According to the National Weather Service, southwest Butler County — along with portions of Sedgwick, Cowley and Sumner counties — received the most rainfall in the state during the rain event. More than 30 inches of rain fell on that area during the month of May.
Totalling up the flood damages has been a chore.
“We have gotten several more jurisdictions like school districts and cities that since our meeting have said ‘Oh my goodness, now that the water went down, we realize we have damages.’ We have been adding lists of names so that if we do get a presidential declaration we reach out to everyone in the process,” Korthals said. “The big thing was if we have met our threshold, so they have not been submitting any numbers to us.”
The public assistance applied for by the governor helps pay for restoration of public infrastructure and associated costs caused by flooding and tornado damage.
“Due to the historic torrential rains, thunderstorms, tornadoes and damaging winds, Kansas has suffered extended damage,” Kelly said. “We must continue to provide Kansans with the assistance, resources and long-term fixes to infrastructure we need during this difficult time.”
A previous presidential declaration can be helped to pay costs of prevention measures like sandbagging and emergency shelters.
Counties listed in the request are: Allen, Anderson, Atchison, Barber, Barton, Bourbon, Butler, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Clark, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Comanche, Cowley, Crawford, Dickinson, Doniphan, Douglas, Edwards, Elk, Ellsworth, Ford, Franklin, Geary, Gray, Greenwood, Harper, Harvey, Hodgeman, Jefferson, Kingman, Leavenworth, Lincoln, Linn, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Montgomery, Morris, Nemaha, Neosho, Norton, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Phillips, Pottawatomie, Pratt, Reno, Rice, Riley, Rush, Russell, Saline, Sumner, Wabaunsee, Washington, Wilson and Woodson.
It is unclear if there will be more declarations to allow for assistance to private individuals who suffered damages or losses.
“We are hearing from a lot of folks who have ruined finished basements. In talking with the state, initially they said we probably do not have enough to meet the private thresholds because that is a completely different formula,” Korthals said. “But as we have subsequent flood events, subsequent flood events and the tornado up in Lawrence, they are starting to make some inquiries.Unfortunately the individual assistance is a lot harder to get. In what we are reviewing, I do not know if we will have enough major damage to get any FEMA assistance, but we are making inquiries.”